When an air raid warning siren sounds in a community, residents usually have several to 20 minutes to move to the nearest shelter or at least a safer place. Since the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukrainians have become accustomed to these almost daily sounds. Most of us know what to do when we hear them. Some of us even know who turns the siren on and how. But what’s behind it? How does the person who presses the button that activates the signal know about the danger?
In this DOZORRO article, we explain that sirens are just the tip of the iceberg of complex warning systems. In addition to the sound part, they also include radars for threat detection. But these are only an auxiliary tool.
The radar units of the Ukrainian Air Force are responsible for hazard detection in the skies over Ukraine. They record the route of an airplane, missile, or UAV and determine its possible trajectory. According to this data, regions that lie on the path of the detected threat are notified of it. Notifications are sent to the relevant local authorities via special programs or by phone.
Compared to last February, the quality and speed of airborne threat detection has improved significantly. This is not only due to the training of the Air Force personnel, but also because radar systems and equipment for warning the population have been improved.
Before the full-scale invasion
Until February 2022, this sphere was hardly modernized at all. According to BI Prozorro data, procuring entities used to procure mostly fire protection systems. As for standard alerts, once a year, cities checked whether those were in working order. Then residents could hear sirens on the streets, as well as warnings on radio stations and local television.
The only thing that was ordered was the maintenance of such systems. For example, to ensure the functioning of elements of the local automatic centralized warning system in Mariupol for a year for UAH 11,000, which the executive committee ordered in January 2022.
One of the first procurements since the beginning of the great war was a contract for the purchase of a warning system for the Pidberiztsi village council in the Lviv oblast, signed on February 28, 2022. The system consisted of an electronic unit and one loudspeaker and cost UAH 94,000.
The need for a more comprehensive approach – when radars work together with sirens – became clear after several tragic incidents. One of them was a terrorist attack at the train station in Kramatorsk on April 8, 2022. Back then, the Russian army fired missiles with cluster warheads from the Tochka U complex at people at the station. According to “Ukrainska Pravda. Life”, 61 people were killed and 121 injured.
Only a few companies ordered the development or adjustment of new systems. One of the very first was the construction of a local automated centralized warning system for the Cherkasy village council in Dnipro oblast. In the summer of 2022, the local Budproekttsentr LLC brought and set up equipment for UAH 820,000, which consisted of a laptop, modules for detecting threats and alerting the public, and an uninterruptible power supply.
A similar system for the Voznesensk City Council in Mykolaiv Oblast cost about the same amount. In August 2022, it was ordered by Kyiv-based Leater Integration LLC for UAH 835,000. It consisted of a server set with a monitor and uninterruptible power supply, as well as specialized software.
A similar system for Vyshhorod, which the city council ordered in the fall of 2022, cost more. For the installation and setup of equipment for the local automated centralized community warning system, the Dnipro-based “SPE Ozon S” LLC received UAH 793,000.
More often, communities ordered projects to build large-scale warning systems. For example, the development of a project to modernize the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Territorial Automated Centralized Warning System cost UAH 195,500.
The projects for the construction of a local automated public warning system (LAPWS) for the village of Novi Petrivtsi in Kyiv oblast and the installation of a similar system in Opishnia, Poltava region, cost UAH 50,000 each. Their development was ordered in May and August last year. This price was typical for small communities in the regions.
The design of the new construction of the LAPWS for Brovary by the aforementioned “SPE “Ozone S” LLC at the end of 2022 already cost UAH 175,000. The developer was also supposed to provide for the possibility of integration into the regional alert system and sending SMS notifications.
An attempt to monopolize the market
As for the development of large systems, in early May of this year, hromadske.ua journalists published an investigationinto an attempt to monopolize this market. In short, MP Serhiy Shakhov, suspected of corruption, is allegedly pushing a company associated with his advisor, possibly a Russian citizen, into the warning system market through ministries and other government agencies.
Shakhov approached Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal with a proposal to introduce new automated centralized warning systems and ask for funding from foreign partners. In the same document, he also indicated the companies he recommended for the implementation of his proposal.
These include Polish Digitex and Slovak Telegrafia. The former is distributed in Ukraine by Ukrzaliznychavtomatyka LLC. According to the Ministry of Justice, its beneficial owner, Oleksiy Kolesnyk, also owns Transzaliznychservis, whose other co-owner is Zuriko Magamedov. Since 2016, the latter has been a director of the Russian company New Perspective Systems, owned by Mykola Sambozhuk, an advisor to Serhiy Shakhov. This company was dissolved in May 2017.
According to hromadske, Sambozhuk and Magamedov know each other and crossed the Belarusian border in the same car at least once, in 2016. In addition, when Mykola Sambozhuk was running for parliament in 2014, he stated that he worked as the deputy director of Transport Automated Systems LLC. The founder of this company was Yuriy Marushchenko, who was also among the founders of Ukrzaliznychavtomatyka.
Back to Shakhov, hromadske has the minutes of a closed meeting of the deputy association, according to which the MP proposes to amend the Order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which sets out the technical requirements for warning systems. Many of these additions coincide with the characteristics of Digitex products, from which Ukrzaliznychavtomatyka purchases equipment. In particular, regarding loudspeakers.
To summarize: The MP suspected of concealing his wealth is trying to push for a state monopolization of the public warning system market for a company that has ties to his private advisor.
Judging by the analysis of procurement, Ukrzaliznychavtomatyka LLC is currently unpopular with procuring entities. According to BI Prozorro, the company has only three contracts for:
- a project for the construction of a public warning system in 2021 from Ukrhasvydobuvannia for one kopeck
- development of terms of reference and a project for an early detection system for emergencies in 2016 from the State Enterprise “Planeta Plant” of the State Reserve Agency of Ukraine for UAH 13,800;
- a project of the system for early detection of emergencies and alerts in 2016 from the Khmelnytskyi-based public organization “EstafetaPlant” for UAH 2,800, which was terminated.
In three more tenders with an expected value of UAH 7 million, announced in March and April 2023, Ukrzaliznychavtomatyka won and is waiting to sign contracts. The organizers are SE NNEGC Energoatom, which is ordering a project for the reconstruction of the warning system for the South Ukrainian NPP, and JSC Ukrgasvydobuvannya, represented by the Gas and Gas Condensate Processing Division, which wants to equip automated systems for early detection of the threat of emergencies and public warning at two gas stations in Kharkiv for UAH 1.3 million and UAH 1.27 million.
What was procured
DOZORRO also decided to investigate how the development of threat detection and warning systems is generally procured on Prozorro. The ones that are as close as possible to what MP Serhiy Shakhov offers the state.
The largest among them was a contract for a software and hardware complex for an automated warning system for Zaporizhzhia for UAH 28.4 million. The bulk of this amount is special software, which Kyiv-based Decent-A LLC estimated at UAH 24.6 million. The documents state that this is CBT.Legion software by Kyiv developers.
This system can be called relevant to what MP Serhiy Shakhov proposes in his appeals. In particular, the technical requirements for the procurement state that it should automatically record all interaction processes in the event log. According to the minutes of a closed meeting of the Inter-Factional Deputy Association, published by hromadske.ua, Shakhov suggested that the systems should store all important events related to the operation of sirens.
Shakhov also suggests that the systems should report unauthorized connections, and the Zaporizhzhia system provides protection against such interference.
Two more coincidences are the requirement for automatic selection of the data transmission channel and the availability of a “silent test” mode, without activating the sirens.
In addition, the requirements for radio communications are similar in the documents. Thus, according to Shakhov’s proposals, the sirens should be able to work with DMR and TETRA radio stations, which use channels with frequencies of 12.5 kHz and 25 kHz, respectively. The same channels are also provided for in the technical requirements of the system for Zaporizhzhia.
In Kherson region, the local Department of Civil Protection and Defense divided the procurement of the radar and siren system into three procurements:
- a complete system for collecting, tracking and storing data
- video cameras and equipment for them;
- a hardware and software system for managing public warning and informing.
All of this cost the oblast UAH 45 million, which was paid to Kyiv-based Hendel LLC, which was opened in February 2022. The owner and head of the company is Mykola Pykhtin, who was the director of the KCSA’s Informatics utility enterprise in 2017-2021. The procurement does not provide details on technical requirements, so it is impossible to compare it with the systems promoted by Shakhov.
Another curious order is two procurements for the Department of Operational Communication and Electronic Communications of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine:
- a program to modernize the nationwide automated central warning system for UAH 12 million;
- adaptation and optimization of this program for UAH 11.4 million.
According to the contracts signed in May this year, both developments were carried out by SE Infotech.
With these funds, the enterprise developed a project to update the nationwide warning system and several software modules for it in seven stages. In addition, the developer has drawn up all the necessary technical documentation and protocols for user interaction with the system.
In particular, the developed system is designed to:
- manage alerts;
- monitor the status of application programs;
- edit the interactive map;
- search the interactive map;
- store data;
- record and store audio and text messages.
Judging by the terms of reference, part of this development may be the introduction of a Cell Broadcast notification system in Ukraine (the one that sends danger notifications to mobile phones with a horrible sound that cannot be ignored). We sent a request to the SES to confirm or deny our assumption and are waiting for a response.
What systems were implemented without Prozorro
At the same time, according to Militarnyi, in May 2023, Ukraine also began receiving Israeli radars for detecting airborne objects, purchased at the expense of Lithuanian volunteers. These radars can identify types of aircraft and missiles, recognize their trajectory, and send out alerts.
We are talking about the ieMHR radar, a tactical three-dimensional radar system manufactured by the Israeli company RADA that can detect even small targets.
As reported by Militarnyi, the Israeli warning system Tzeva Adom, designed to detect missiles and drones, was adapted to our conditions, taking into account the weapons used by Russia against Ukraine. The radars check the airspace in the direction of the territories from which Russia usually fires. The system also calculates the time of approach – a siren gives a special signal that indicates how many minutes or seconds people have to hide.
One of the stated advantages of this system is the ability to calculate the relatively accurate time and place of impact of launched missiles, which allows the warning system to localize the area of operation to a specific city.
Funds for these radars were raised as part of the RADAROM! campaign, which involved civil society organizations supporting Ukraine in Lithuania: Blue/Yellow, Laisvės TV, 1K fondas, and Stiprūs kartu, as well as the Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT. The initial plan was to raise at least 5 million euros, but in the first week the amount reached 6 million euros. The campaign ended in four weeks: the organizers managed to raise 14 million euros.
Ukrainian specialists have already been trained to work with RADA ieMHR tactical radars. The training course in Lithuania lasted four days in March. The first batch of these radars was installed in Kyiv.
In total, Ukraine plans to install 16 such radars and integrate them into the Ukrainian radar system. This will allow for faster transmission of alerts to mobile phone users and activation of air raid sirens only in places where there is a risk of missile attack.
In addition, in early March 2023, the Kyiv City Council and Kyiv City Military Administration announced improvements to the public warning system in Kyiv. It was developed similar to those in the United States, Poland, and Germany.
The new system uses artificial intelligence. It is able to generate a voice alert in seconds about the impending danger and provide instructions on how to act: run for cover in case of a missile attack or climb to the roof of a house because of flooding. The information is provided on a zone-by-zone and street-by-street basis and sent to the appropriate loudspeakers.
All loudspeakers have to be placed with maximum optimization. To do this, the developers built a three-dimensional model of Kyiv, taking into account the height of buildings and terrain, and calculated the distribution of warning signals throughout the city using specialized German software.
To ensure that the sound signal would be optimally delivered to residents, the actual noise level along the main roads of the city was measured and a noise map was made. In order for a person to hear the sound, the notification must have a volume above 65 dB or 15 dB above the noise level around them.
The first warning stations of the reconstructed system were tested in March in the Desnianskyi district of the capital. In total, there should be 630 such stations in Kyiv. The total cost of the project is estimated at UAH 400 million. The city plans to complete all these works by the end of 2024. The Kyiv City Military Administration adds that the vendor and other details of the system are classified for security reasons.
The Prozorro system contains information on procurements for the upgrade of the configuration and installation of warning systems worth almost UAH 900 million over the past 1.5 years. Of these, orders for the development of new systems account for approximately UAH 190 million.
However, these orders also include fire detection systems in institutions, as well as hazard detection in complex industries, including oil and gas production and nuclear power plants. In addition, in the above lists, we did not take into account individual purchases of individual equipment, such as sirens and loudspeakers.
In general, we can say that even without MP Shakhov’s appeals, special meetings of commissions and changes to orders of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other institutions, communities and central authorities are mostly able to cope with orders and the development of warning systems. This does not even require the technology of foreign companies associated with his assistant. The only thing needed for faster and more efficient implementation is funding.
This publication was prepared with the support of the USAID/UK aid project “Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services / TAPAS”.